"Knowing one’s tradition is important; but only when tradition is not presented as fossilised but as continuous with our present-day living. In most places we do not make enough effort to show the link between the classical philosophical thoughts and the contemporary world view. We need to show that we can still meaningfully interact with the classical philosophical systems", writes Amita Chatterjee in her seminal essay "In Search of Counterpoints". This volume is dedicated in her honour.
Chatterjee belongs to a genre of philosophers, who have as part of their cultural heritage, like Raghunath Siromani and Immanuel Kant. Chatterjee, in addition to breaking cultural boundaries, desired to break boundaries that have kept professional disciplines apart. She deeply believes that there are certain basic questions that are questions not for any specific discipline. These questions, she thinks, could not be answered by remaining within one single discipline.
It is no surprise that she was the founder of the first Cognitive Science Centre in India. Responding to her multifaceted academic talent, forty academics from diverse disciplines and from all over the world have contributed papers to this volume. The major areas of Chatterjee’s interest that feature in this volume are:
(i) Fusion Philosophy, (ii) Mind and Cognition, (iii) Mind and Perception, (iv) Mind and Language, (v) Logic and Vagueness, (vi) Logic, (vii) Indian Philosophy, and (viii) Philosophy, Society and Popular Culture. Chatterjee’s intellectual autobiography and her responses to each of the papers are parts of this volume.
Kuntala Bhattacharya has taught at Vidyasagar University and Rabindra Bharati University. She has written extensively on Buddhist Epistemology and Nyaya, among which the essay "Some Issues in Buddhist Logic", co-authored by Pradeep P. Gokhale, in Handbook of Logical Thought in India, ed. Sundar Sarukkai, is worthy of special mention.
Madhucchanda Sen has taught at Rabindra Bharati University and Jadavpur University and is the author of Externalism and the Mental, Logic Introduction to Critical Thinking and has co-edited Experiencing Self, Knowledge, Truth and Reality: Essays in Philosophical Analysis, a collection of articles by Pranab Kumar Sen, and Empiricism and the Two Dogmas.
Smita Sirker has taught at Jadavpur University and Jawarharlal Nehru University. She has written extensively on Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science, and Moral Reasoning. Her major articles are "Aspects of Mathematical Pluralism" (Journal of Mathematics and Culture, 2016), "Gettier Across Cultures" (Notis, 2015), "Dinnaga and Mental Models: A Reconstruction" (Philosophy East and West, 2010) and "Is Belief in Free Will a Cultural Universal?" (Mind and Language, 2010). She is the co-author of Mental Reasoning: Experiments and Theories.
Knowing one’s tradition is important, but only when tradition is not presented as fossilized but as continuous with our present-day living. In most places we do not make enough effort to show the link between the classical philosophical thoughts and the contemporary world view. We need to show that we can still meaningfully interact with the classical philosophical systems. To enliven the traditional systems of philosophy we need to create new counterpoints in various different ways. This is an important lesson we have learnt from history. A philosophical system thrives only when it has to face formidable opposition from one or more quarters.
Amita Chatterjee writes this in her seminal essay "In Search of Counterpoints". Rarely does one see an academician so deeply true to what she professes. Chatterjee’s academic career has not taken a beaten track. It has taken a track of an academic adventurer who ventures out in newer and newer terrains in spite of being deeply grounded in a mixture of training in Classical Indian Philosophy and training within a tradition of post-colonial education.
We have to however remember that the kind of training in Philosophy that was offered in Calcutta in the post-colonial days imbibed a comparative philosophical approach which was characterized by a divisive nature. If we look at the philosophy syllabi followed by the University of Calcutta or Jadavpur University at the time Chatterjee was educated, we would find that each course, be it Metaphysics or Epistemology or Logic, was further divided into Indian Metaphysics and Western Metaphysics or Indian Epistemology and Western Epistemology or Indian Logic and Western Logic. The idea was to equip the young minds with both the knowledge of Classical Indian Philosophical texts and Philosophy Classics from the Western world.
This education system really gave rise to five categories of scholars in Kolkata (and West Bengal in general). There were scholars who were deeply impressed by Western thought and took up Western philosophy as their preferred area of research. The Bengal analytic mind (having a deep cultural influence due to Navya-Nyaya tradition) was attracted to analytic philosophy and logic. There were other scholars who wanted to continue research in the Classical Indian Philosophical tradition. Of course, there were scholars who, having been trained both in Classical Indian Philosophy and Western thought, found it challenging to develop a kind of spirit of comparative philosophy. Intellectuals also passionately felt the need to place Classical Indian Philosophy at the centre stage of world philosophy. This category of philosophers did not carry out their research in just one particular way. Several models of doing comparative philosophy developed. We may say we have a model of comparative philosophizing which may be called the Matilal model (naming the model after B.K. Matilal). In this model analytical debates were extracted from Classical Indian texts and were contemporized by showing how they were parallel to the debates found in Western philosophy. The other significant model of comparative philosophizing may be called the Mohanty model (naming the model after J.N. Mohanty). In this model not the parallels but rather the glaring absences of debates and concepts across traditions were highlighted and philosophically enlightening explanations of these absences were sought. These two models have captured the imagination of many contemporary philosophers, and Chatterjee is no exception to it. However, there is another important mode of philosophizing that was developed by possibly the most creative philosopher that India has produced in recent past, K.C. Bhattacharyya. Bhattacharyya did philosophy in his own way which drew resources from traditions that touched his upbringing. His philosophy could neither be characterized as Indian, nor as Western, nor strictly comparative. It built up a scholarly mind that did not desire to be restricted by cultural boundaries but desired to take flight on its own wings — wings that gained flight muscles from divergent traditions. Though Chatterjee has written many papers which may be characterized as belonging to the Matilal model or Mohanty model, we may say that she belongs to new genre of philosophers, who do philosophy in a way more close to the way Bhattacharyya did. These philosophers have. as part of their cultural heritage both philosophers like Raghunath Siromani and Immanuel Kant. Chatterjee emerges as a philosopher who believes in doing what may be called Fusion Philosophy.
Chatterjee, in addition to breaking cultural boundaries, desired to break boundaries that have kept professional disciplines apart. She deeply believed that there are certain basic questions that are questions not for any specific discipline. These questions, she believed, could not be answered by remaining within one single discipline. Needless to say, she found great joy and academic satisfaction in participating in the Cognitive Science Revolution. She became the founder and first coordinator of the Centre for Cognitive Science at Jadavpur University which later on became an interdisciplinary school. Chatterjee retired as a coordinator of the school in 2010. The centre and the school were both first of their kind in India. We may also note here that Chatterjee has deep commitment to naturalism which has found expression in many of her works.
The editors of this Festchrift want the spotlight to fall on this special way in which Amita Chatterjee has done philosophy. Hence we have structured the volume in a way that focuses on her multifaceted intellectual personality. The first two sections focus on her way of doing Fusion Philosophy and doing Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science in the interdisciplinary way. The latter sections focus on all the areas in which she has made significant contribution. Some contributors have addressed to her writings directly while others have addressed philosophical issues which have been close to her heart. She has meticulously replied to all the papers. Chatterjee has also written a comprehensive intellectual autobiography with which the volume begins. Some of the papers may actually find their natural place in more than one thematic section that we have divided the papers of the volume into. The editors have tried to weigh the claim of place for any paper in the contending sections so as to come to a decision as to where to place it. We may have not been able to totally rule out the possibility that the readers might find it better to place one paper in a section which it has not been placed. We plead guilty in advance for that!
The first section of the volume is on Fusion Philosophy, in which Chatterjee finds the best way of expressing her bicultural inheritance. We have papers by Jonardon Ganeri, Smita Sirker, Sundar Sarukkai, Maushumi Guha and Uma Dhar, in this section.
The second section highlights Chatterjee’s deep engagement with Cognitive Science and is called Mind and Cognition. In this section we have papers by Manidipa Sen, Bijoy Baruah, Nivedita Gangopadhyay, Anirban Mukherjee, Lopamudra Choudhury and Aruna Chakraborty, Anisha Halder, Amit Konar.
The third section is on Mind and Perception. Perception has always been Chatterjee’s favourite philosophical issue. She has looked at it from the perspective of Epistemology, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. In her teaching career, Chatterjee has devoted a major part in teaching courses on Perception. What is quite amazing is that not a single course has been a repetition of the previous one. Chatterjee, in each course, has looked into the issues concerning Perception from different directions. This has inspired many of her colleagues and students to think and write on Perception. Kuntala Bhattacharya, Srilekha Datta, Madhucchanda Sen and Nalini Bhushan have written papers in this section. Few of the papers in this section could well have been placed in the first section.
The fourth section is devoted on Mind and Language. Like many of her contemporary philosophers, Amita Chatterjee has worked in the area of convergence between Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Language. R.C. Pradhan, Arthur Falk, Rolla Das, Rajesh Kasturirangan, Anindya Sinha and Probal Dasgupta have contributed papers for this section.
Amita Chatterjee’s first book was Understanding Vagueness. In this book she emphasized that vagueness exists not only in language but also in reality. Chatterjee offers a solution to the Sorites Paradox employing fuzzy logic and the concept of graded consequence. Her deep interest in fuzzy logic led to her academic collaborations with mathematicians and logicians and has inspired many students to work in this area. In the fifth section on Logic and Vagueness we have papers by Sanjukta Basu, Prajit Basu, Mihir Kumar Chakraborty, Zhao Chuan, Shefali Moitra and Nirmalya Narayan Chakraborty.
Needless to say, Chatterjee’s early works centred around issues in Philosophical Logic. She has also been a founder member of the well-renowned Calcutta Logic Circle. The sixth section is. on Logic where we have papers by Shyamashree Bhattacharya and Indrani Sanyal.
The seventh section of the volume concentrates on Indian Philosophy where we have many of her academic peers and students contributing papers. They are Tara Chatterjea, Mark Siderits, Madhumita Chattopadhyay, Tushar Kanti Sarkar, Maitreyee Datta and Ratna Datta Sharma. Mark Siderits’ paper could well have been placed in the first section.
Amita Chatterjee, in spite of being a very rigorous and strict academician, committed teacher and academic administrator, has led an extremely rich cultural and social life. She has always responded to cultural and social issues with her acute philosophical intellect. The last section of her Festschrift is devoted to Philosophy, Society and Popular Culture. Sharad Deshpande and Sebanti Bhattacharya have contributed in this section.
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